More than 5 cents of every dollar the government spends on its multi-billion-dollar payroll goes for some sort of penalty or overtime pay. Currently the government is paying workers about $2.5 billion a year for working longer shifts, or on Sundays and holidays.
The current congressional inquiry into alleged overtime abuses in government has obviously just scratched the surface. It has, so far, touched on the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Justice and Health, Education and Welfare (HEW). All three are high on the list of agencies shelling out substantial portions of their payroll budget for extra-hours pay. But on a prorated basis, they are not the big spenders.
In one instance at HUD recently, investigators sent a bogus voucher through a supposedly fool-proof computer. It dutifully wrote out a single check for $99,000 payable to one Donald Duck who does not even work for the government.
If use of overtime is an indicator that there may be abuses, the congressional probers into the overtime "scandal" have not yet found the mother lode. For instance:
The Tennessee Valley Authority is the government's champion user of overtime, in relation to its total payroll. TVA, which has only a handful of workers in Washington , paid employes $13 in overtime and premium pay for every $100 in straight salary. That is $75 million in overtime.
The U.S. Postal Service largest single federal agency, pays out about 10 cents of every salary dollar for overtime and premium pay. Nearly $1 billion.
Overtime and premium pay for White House staffers during the fiscal 1977 year (latest figures available) accounts for 8.11 percent of the total basic payroll at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue. That does not include money for Sunday work, nor the salaries or overtime for employes detailed to the White House from other agencies.
The National Gallery of Art is one of the biggest users of overtime and premium pay in government. Most of the $500,000 it paid out in overtime during the 1977 fiscal year went to guards. Officials say the figure will probably go up because of overtime by many other workers relating to completion and opening of the gallery's new east wing.
The Panama Canal Company, which soon will cease to be a federal agency, has been paying workers about 8 cents in premium pay for every $1 in salary received.
The Justice Department, which has been doing much of the investigating of alleged overtime abuses, is in fact one of the major users of premium and overtime pay. Justice spends about 10 cents of every salary dollar in overtime, with most of the dollar going to FBI agents who get regular overtime differentials in lieu of actual pay (which would be even higher) for overtime worked. Agents and investigators who routinely put in 9 hours or more a week of overtime get a 25 percent salary differential.
The Navy pays out 6 cents for overtime and premium pay for ever salary dollar spent on civilians. But both Army and Air Force spent about half that on overtime pay. Navy brass say the difference is because of shipyard schedules and repair work.
For thousands of federal workers, overtime pay has become a way of life. Many involved in law enforcement, investigative work, computer operations, and air traffic safety routinely put in much longer workweeks than 40 hours. Many workers, and a high percentage of managers, don't charge the government for overtime or compulsory time.
The congressional overtime probe, so far, has dealt mainly with middle and lowe-level employes allegedly cheating on overtime, or working unnecessary overtime. But there may be some bigger offenders in other agencies. Maybe the investigators who dreamed up the Donald Duck test for HUD will try a Mickey Mouse time and attendance sheet runthrough the White House.
Veteans Ceremony: Military veterans, government workers and the general public are invited to a Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 9 in the Departmental Auditorium (Constitution Avenue between 12th and 14th streets NW.) A number of agencies are participating in the ceremony that has been organized by the Labor Department post of the American Legion. Call Robert Abbott at 376-6674 for details.
Shaky Job: Robert L. Wesson has taken over as head of the Office of Earthquake Studies at Geological Survey. Wesson, appropriately enough, comes from San Francisco but will be based as USGS headquarters in Reston. Robert M. Hamilton, who had the job, will head a research project investigating earthquake origins east of the Mississippi.
Dictatint Machine Transcribers: Bureau of the Public Debt has Grade 4 openings. Call M. L. McNeal at 447-0946.